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Filmism.net Dispatch January 26, 2013

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Must... not... talk... about... Star... Wars.

Except to say JJ Abrams was denying he was involved until just weeks ago, saying he wanted to enjoy the new films as he did the old ones; as a fan.

If you missed the news this week, his deal with Disney to direct Star Wars VII is locked, and in hindsight it makes perfect sense. Even if he wasn't the most commercial sci-fi director around (the Chris Nolan school would take it too dark), he's already proven he can revive a moribund franchise and do it with verve, excitement and the one thing the original Star Wars films had that most recent big screen sci-fi and action movies lack.

Fun.

But this week I also wanted to talk about what a highly politicised world we live in, and where movies are often the most visible victims of sensitive social issues. I don't know if the media or the cultural gatekeepers of the 1970s talked constantly about the link between harrowing real events and what happened on screen. I'm sure there was a shark attack some time in the mid 1970s, but was there any talk of yanking ads or recutting trailers for Jaws?

Today, you can track the American national mood by how studios change movie marketing no differently than you could track the economy by watching the stock market. One of the most impactful scenes in the Gangster Squad trailer was a line of heavies shooting into a movie audience through the screen of the iconic Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. When a whacko at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises opened fire on the crowd, the jittery studio pulled the sequence from the trailer.

After the most recent bloodbath in American in a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, there were a few raised eyebrows over the starring role a giant middy gun takes in the latest trailer for Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand. Was this really the time to be fetishising weapons, we asked?

I'm not suggesting anybody's overreacting, and if anybody of mine had died in Aurora, the last thing I'd want to see is a theatre full of people mown down with Tommy guns for my entertainment. It's just interesting that tragedies in the real world today are so closely coupled with what we see in pop culture.

I'm not sure why, but the reason for the disconnect (and part of the reason for at least some of the killing in the US, if you ask me) is that Americans have a love/hate relationship with violence. There's an inherent tension between how awful guns, fighting and war are and just how cool they can look on screen, and it's truly a shock when it appears in real life and we see how ugly and unsexy violence really is.

In other news, there was a time not so long ago (Sahara, Fool's Gold) when Mathew McConaughey seemed to be a professional holidaymaker, traveling to exotic locales to shoot breezy romantic comedies and copping off with all the local crumpet while he wasn't on set.

But the renaissance that began with Magic Mike and The Paperboy continues with the ugly and disturbing Killer Joe, a challenging, at-times infuriating and downright weird film that nevertheless contains some amazing acting, especially from pretty boy McConaughey himself.

And please, please, please see the epic, sumptuous, gorgeous, thrilling, mystical and deep Cloud Atlas if you haven't already.

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